The truth about sanctions on Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe has been under United States sanctions for the past 16 years but up to now people are still divided on whether they are targeted at a few individuals within the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and a few companies owned by business tycoons known to be sympathetic to ZANU-PF or they affect the ordinary Zimbabwean.

The United States has repeatedly said that its sanctions affect a few human rights violators and not the ordinary Zimbabwean. It even argues that it is one of the biggest donors to Zimbabwe.

The European Union which has lifted most of its sanctions on Zimbabwe, except those on Grace Mugabe and the Zimbabwe Defence Industries as well as an arms embargo, also claims to be a major donor to Zimbabwe and insists that sanctions are not affecting the ordinary Zimbabwean.

But studies by western scholars have shown that aid to Africa is toxic. In fact, more money flows  out of Africa than is flowing in.

In 2012, for example, developing countries received a total of US$1.3tn, including all aid, investment, and income from abroad. But that same year some $3.3tn flowed out of them, according to the London Guardian.

“In other words, developing countries sent $2tn more to the rest of the world than they received. If we look at all years since 1980, these net outflows add up to an eye-popping total of $16.3tn – that’s how much money has been drained out of the global south over the past few decades. To get a sense for the scale of this, $16.3tn is roughly the GDP of the United States.”

Apart from that aid promotes corruption and a dependence syndrome.

While the issue of sanctions on Zimbabwe has now been largely politicized, the fact remains that they affect ordinary Zimbabweans in their day to day lives.

Zimbabwe farmers are affected by sanctions as one of the leading seed suppliers has to get clearance to supply them with seed.

One of the country’s largest beverages suppliers also has to get clearance to supply the world’s most popular soft drink.

Even urban people are affected as one of the country’s leading property developers was barred from accessing cheap finance for construction of houses.

The list goes on.

To show the extent of the impact of sanctions on Zimbabwe, The Insider, obtained some documents on companies that are affected by sanctions and what they have to do to be allowed to trade in Zimbabwe.

The documents, which were obtained from the United States treasury’s Office for Foreign Assets Control which administers sanctions on Zimbabwe, were heavily edited to “protect” sensitive information but they show the thrust of the sanctions.

The Insider got the documents after more than two years of waiting.

OFAC FOIA 1st full response

OFAC FOIA final response


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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